Today starts the first European Championship of the summer with the U20 Tournament to be held in Croatia. 16 teams compete for the Medals and 2 teams will drop down to Division B. Europeanprospects.com checked the level of the different participants.
Group A (Ukraine, Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia)
Group A features one of the main favorites of the tournament with Greece. The Golden 1990 born generation around Kostas Sloukas, Nikos Pappas, Leonidas Kaselakis, Vladimir Jankovic or Kostas Papanikolaou will try to add yet another Medal to their collection. Gold in U18, Silver at U19, Gold in U20, Gold at AST show how dominant these players were over the last 2-3 years. The second best team in this group will probably be the Czech Republic despite playing without their top talent born in 1990 Jan Vesely. The team will be led by David Jelinek and Tomas Satoransky in the back-court while Ondrej Kohout will be the main player in the paint. Behind these two squads, Latvia and Ukraine will most likely fight to avoid the last place in the group which means battling against relegation. Ukraine will be led by the Arizona Wildcat Kyryl Natyazhko who had a nice story on FIBA Europe a few days ago while the Latvian team will be mainly built around their 91 generation with Martins Meiers in the paint.
Group B (Turkey, Montenegro, Lithuania, Serbia)
Group B seems to be very balanced with all of the teams able to qualify for the next round. Montenegro though seems to be the weakest team of these four despite the presence of Nikola Vucevic from the University of South Carolina. Serbia comes to Croatia with a team built around Dejan Musli and Branislav Djekic or the shooter Danilo Andjusic. On the other hand, Lithuania will bring their strong guards like Augustas Peciukevicius or Mantas Kadzevicius while Tautvydas Slezas and Giedrius Staniulis have to do their job in the paint. The Turkish U20 is a bit more of a mystery as they lost a multitude of games in the preparation phase but can count on West Virginia Power Forward Deniz Kilicli and the scorers Melih Mahmutoglu and Can Mutaf.
Group C (Italy, Netherlands, France, Russia)
Group C seems to be the easiest to predict as the Netherlands are most likely the weakest team of the whole competition. After their surprising title in the B Division last summer, this year’s team will be led by Jessey Vorn who earned already a lot of minutes with Amsterdam last season. Italy may have a chance in this group despite a team missing the really big-time talent as Nicolo Melli is not with the team. The leaders will probably be players like Roberto Rullo or Daniele Sandri. France has already been a subject on the website a few days ago but some last minute changes impacted the team. Andrew Albicy and Paul Lacombe should be the leaders in the back court while Alexis Tanghe needs to show his scoring talent in the paint. Christophe Leonard will be the main option on the wing for the French squad that also includes Alexandre Gavrilovic who has played in the United States last season. Russia is as often a bit of a mystery as it is difficult to follow the development of their main players. The leaders will probably be Denis Polokhin or Vladimir Ivlev.
Group D (Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Croatia)
Group D seems to be very balanced with the hosts from Croatia being of course the favorites. Leon Radosevic and Mario Delas will be tough to handle in the paint while Toni Prostran gives the team some back court scoring. The versatility of Tomislav Zubcic is another factor in the game of this team. Croatia easily dominated one of the last preparation tournament by beating Italy, Turkey and Greece by more than 12 points. Spain will bring in Nikola Mirotic as a last-minute addition after his ankle injury to support the core of the team around Jose Simeon, Josep Franch and Nacho Llovet. In their opening game, the Spanish will face a German team that will try to earn the third spot in the group with a team built around their two towers Maik Zirbes and Jonas Wohlfarth-Bottermann while Maurice Stuckey will bring some scoring power in the backcourt. Slovenia may surprise some teams in this group as the players around Dino Muric and Mirza Sarajlija beat Serbia and Italy during the preparation. Everything can happen between these four teams.
Europeanprospects.com will not be present in Croatia to cover the tournament. You can follow all the games with Live Scores on the official Website of the tournament.
FIBA TV will stream the semi-finals and Final of the Championship on the 17th and 18th July. You can register for free for these games on the official FIBA TV website. Please note that you can still register as well for only 10USD/8EUR to follow all the games starting at the Quarter-Final Stage from the U17 World Championship in Hamburg.